Thailand ends quarantine for some visitors to rescue tourism
Thailand's main COVID task force approved a plan to end quarantine for vaccinated travelers from some countries starting next month in a bid to revive its struggling tourism sector ahead of the year-end holiday season.
Air travelers from the U.S., U.K, China, Germany and Singapore will be exempted from quarantine on arrival starting Nov. 1, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said at a briefing on Thursday.
The panel's approval was less than the 10 nations targeted by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha earlier this week but it may add more countries to the list after due diligence, Taweesilp said.
The panel also shortened a night curfew by two hours to between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. starting Oct. 16, while reducing the number of provinces deemed at the highest risk of COVID to 23 from 29. But the panel retained Bangkok, a gateway for tourists, in the highest-risk category because of the high number of new cases.
The nod for quarantine-free tourism follows Prayuth's announcement Monday that Thailand could "not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end travelers during the next few months to support the many millions of people" in the tourism and related industries. The number of active cases has fallen to about 100,000 from a peak of more than 210,000 in August, allowing the tourism- and trade-reliant nation to permit more economic activities.
Thailand's vaccinations have picked up the pace in recent months with almost 50% of the population receiving at least one dose, while more than a third received two doses. The government is all set to exceed its target of inoculating 70% of the residents by the end of the year, according to Prayuth.
The country is also set to expand its reopening program, modeled after the "Phuket Sandbox," to cover 17 provinces with high inoculation rates including Bangkok from Nov. 1. Vaccinated travelers from countries not included in the quarantine-free list who arrive in these regions won't have to isolate themselves, provided that they don't travel to other parts of Thailand for at least one week.
Flag carrier Thai Airways International Pcl said on Thursday that it has adjusted flight schedules to support the government's plan to allow quarantine-free travel ahead of the year-end holiday season, with more flights scheduled from Jan. 1 for destinations including Munich, Milan and several Indian cities.